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Ficomontanino | Siena

Ficomontanino | Siena

Hard knowledge is essential in determining where to grow and how to make your wines. But so is intuition.

Surely this is true for Maria Sole Giannelli and her forebears. Her property, Ficomontanino (“Little fig mountain”), was purchased by her grandfather in the 1960s originally with the intention of turning it to a retreat home, a place to breed horses, which was his main passion, as well as to produce olive oil. A few years on, while strolling along the hillsides, he stumbled upon old rootstocks nestled in the deep terraces. He immediately realised that was the farm’s original raison d’être, and future destiny. He started planting vines in the 1970s, and winemaking became a newfound passion. His son, Alessandro, grew up to love the vines too and turned it to a full career. The same spirit carried on today in the hands of his daughter, Maria Sole.

Ficomontanino is located in Chiusi, in the province of Siena in southern Tuscany at the border between Lazio and Umbria. It sits on a quaint intersection where three distinctive profiles are visible from the top of the estate: Lake Trasimeno in Umbria to the east, the mountains of northern Lazio to the south, and the rolling hills of Siena to the northwest. It was this juxtaposition that awakened Maria Sole to the singularity of Ficomontanino’s location when she returned home from her degree in Culinary Arts in Pollenzo. Like her father, she too became a wine grower.

Maria Sole is a devotee of the philosophies espoused by the godfathers of natural farming, Rudolf Steiner and Masanobu Fukuoka. When she took over the estate in 2014, she instituted a holistic approach where her vines would coexist with the pre-existing flora, other crops and animals. She rarely intervenes in the vineyard, opting instead to observe and respond with homeopathic biodynamic treatments only when absolutely necessary. Chemicals are entirely avoided.

Sangiovese, the protagonist variety of Tuscany and Umbria, is the main focus at Ficomontanino. Four out of the seven cuvées the winery makes are based on the variety. Ficomontanino’s unique location lends the grape unique flair compared to other Tuscany sub-regions and Maria Sole dedicates herself to highlight it. She also plants lesser known varieties such as Verdello, Ciliegiolo, Gamay from Trasimeno — all varieties that have existed in the area for centuries — and even Mondeuse. The choice is a nod to ancient tradition, dashed with a youthful creative spirit.

Her all-natural approach to viticulture extends to the cellar. All the grapes are pressed in whole-bunches, wild fermented and treated only with the tiniest possible dose of sulphur at bottling.

Ficomontanino wines are free-spirited yet rooted firmly to a place. They have a streak of seriousness that belies a buoyant vibrancy. The Sangiovese here sings in a higher octave, mature and expressive yet light-footed, textured, floral and savoury. They are delicious, hearty wines but they are also big on elegance. They reveal their best after at least 30 minutes of aeration, to fulfil a vast array of gastronomic pairing or simply be a joy inducing sipping. Indeed, what’s not to like?

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